As most of you will know by now, I am a complete novice to the world of running, and it is just less than a month since I tentatively went out for a baseline 5k...that day, I was disappointed that I couldn’t manage that in half an hour, and since then have used every run as a learning opportunity. This is all as I am going to take part in The Great North Run. I am trying to raise money for Shelter, so if you feel you can help, please visit the link below:
The runs I have done so far have varied, a few 5k, a couple of 8k, couple of 10k, and each repeated run gives me chance to do better than the previous attempt. Things have been going pretty well in truth and today felt like the right time to push myself. I mapped out a route that looked about 15.3km from roads, so in reality would be a touch longer. Social distancing is important so there would be quite a few extra road crossings and swerving to give walkers their 2 metre space.
What I wanted to find out today was about two things...nutrition and resilience. Could I really run without a break for my targeted time (for this run) of between 90 and 100 minutes? What would I do if I found it too hard? Would I stop and walk for a bit or just dig in? Also, with a eye on the Great North Run in September, I am trying to work out the best way of fuelling my body. Bear in mind, this was Sunday morning and a few drinks on Saturday night had not been sacrificed. In the past few weeks, when I have struggled on runs, it is generally an evening run, as I have eaten too much throughout the day (no surprise there) so what kind of nutrition would see me through this? I settled for coffee...one cup of coffee, then about 15 minutes prior to setting off, I had an energy gel with electrolytes. This should kick in after about 3 or 4km and prevent fatigue setting in. I also took out a gel with caffeine, which I had about 5km in. I am still finding my way round with these, but I think the caffeine ones have the biggest impact. They really do boost me during a run and aren’t too inconvenient to carry in pockets. What about water? I can’t get along with carrying a bottle and at the moment am simply taking about 750ml of water on board before setting off. It seems ok to date, but what if it is hot? What then?
Anyway, onto the run itself. A new route, from Whalley, up to Langho, through Wilpshire, down through Salesbury, back onto the A59 at Copster Green, continue as far as the roundabout just beyond Northcote and then back down through Billington. I know the first part up to Langho is uphill, so was fully prepared for the usual slow start. As always, the first km clocked in at just over 6 minutes and by the time I hit 2.5, 15 minutes had gone. Standard. What I didn’t know was that when I turned into Langho, I was facing about another 5k that was pretty much exclusively uphill... and in honesty, I struggled, couldn’t get a decent stride pattern and lacked energy. I took the decision to have the gel earlier than planned, which meant that with 10k left, I had no more fuel. I was on my own... fortunately the right turn down into Salesbury gave some downhill relief and my energy built up again. It’s the caffeine I think. Need to remember that for next time. From there, a few ups, a few downs, and at around 12k, I hit the wall, I can see Northcote, but am still having to go up a long steady upward incline. Also,by this point my energy levels plummeted rapidly. To answer the question from earlier, I looked at my watch...I had been running for about an hour and a quarter, so all I needed to do was take shorter strides for a while, dig in and carry on. My hour and a half was not going to happen, but I was further from home than I had thought and was looking at probably doing 16k. This is the point at which I needed to think about nutrition. Each gel contains about 25g of Carb, so all I had at that to keep me going at that point was two of those plus a strong coffee and just short of a litre of water. That’s something I need to think about next time. Maybe something to eat, a few calories inside me would have helped. Nonetheless, I cracked on, and by the time I had got past Mitton Fold golf club, began to feel good as mostly now I was pretty much freewheeling downhill. The run ended with me pretty much spent. 16.27 km according to GPS, so just over 10 miles, in a time of 1 hour 35 minutes and 45 seconds. The splits showed my slowest km (1st one as always) was 6.06 and mostly were around 5.50. The fastest ones were 5.47, of which there were 3, including the 15th km - even though that was largely downhill, it still pleases me to see that there was no major drop off in times.
So what did I learn? On a longer run, I need to try having some food prior to going, then take 2 caffeine gels with me. What else? Mental toughness is crucial. To think that after only four weeks running, I can run at a consistent pace for over an hour and a half with no stops, walking, and overcoming some discomfort comes as a massive shock. Knowing so many people have donated to the cause so far gives me the determination I need. Last piece of learning? Socks...can’t wait to get some proper running ones.